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Spending on academic research rose 6.9% in 2011

Research Spending, Before the Cliff
November 29, 2012

Research university administrators are understandably jittery about the fiscal cliff facing policy makers in Washington, given the prospect that federal budget cutbacks would shave -- if not savage -- government funds for academic research and development.

A report released Wednesday by the National Science Foundation provides a reminder about how painful the fall off the cliff might be. The agency's annual look at research spending by universities -- which is driven heavily by federal funds -- shows that R&D spending surged to its highest level ever in 2011, to $65.1 billion. That was up 6.3 percent from 2010's $61.2 billion, with both years' figures inflated by funds included in the economic stimulus law that Congress passed in 2009.

That money leveled off in 2012 and vanished entirely by the current 2013 academic year, and federal funds for research -- like most other non-defense discretionary programs in the federal budget -- could get whacked (in an across-the-board 8.2 percent cut) if Congress doesn’t pass a long-term plan to deal with the budget deficit, and a host of expiring tax provisions are allowed to lapse. So it is possible that the 2011 figures will represent a high-water mark for some time to come.

As seen in the chart below, nearly two-thirds (62.6 percent) of all money spent on research and development by the 912 academic institutions surveyed by the science foundation came from the federal government; about 10 percent of that total came through the stimulus legislation. The next-largest segment came from institutions themselves.


 

As has been true in recent years, biomedical science fields dominated the research spending by the government and institutions alike. More than $37 billion of the $65 billion total was allocated for the life sciences, with engineering a distant second of the broad fields.

Field Fiscal 2010 Fiscal 2011 % change 2010–11
All R&D fields $61,191 $65,073  6.3%
        Computer sciences  1,637  1,735  6.0
        Environmental sciences  2,992  3,167  5.8
        Life sciences 34,924 37,232  6.6
        Mathematical sciences    592    636  7.4
        Physical sciences  4,619  4,779  3.5
        Psychology  1,075  1,119  4.1
        Social sciences  1,991  2,045  2.7
        Other Sciences  1,154  1,132  -1.9
    Engineering  9,327 10,045  7.7
    Non-science and engineering  2,880  3,183 10.5

And roughly 40 percent of all research and development funds spent by colleges and universities in 2011 was spent by the top 30 institutions, which are listed below.


Top 30 Institutions in Research Expenditures, 2011 (in millions)

Institution Total Research Expenditures, 2011 Federally Provided Research Funds, 2011
Johns Hopkins U.  $2,145 $1,884
U. of Michigan  1,279 820
U. of Washington  1,149 949
U. of Wisconsin at Madison  1,112 594
Duke U.  1,022 585
U. of California-San Diego  1,009 637
U. of California-San Francisco    995 570
U. of California-Los Angeles    982 563
Stanford U.    908 656
U. Pittsburgh, main campus    899 663
U. of Pennsylvania    886 707
Columbia U.    879 646
U. of Minnesota-Twin Cities    847 489
OH State U.    832 493
Penn State U.    795 469
Cornell U.    782 476
U. NC, Chapel Hill    767 562
U. of Florida    740 306
Washington U. in St. Louis    725 469
Mass Institute of Technology    724 489
U. of California-Berkeley    708 336
U. of California-Davis    708 363
Texas A&M U.    706 291
U. of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Ctr.    663 236
Yale U.    657 520
Georgia Institute of Technology    655 428
Harvard U.    650 543
U. of Texas-Austin    632 355
Northwestern U.    619 400
U. of Arizona    611 328

Source: National Science Foundation

 

 

 

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